Sun, May 11, 2003 - Page 22 News List

Sweden and Canada set for big final

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP Sweden lost to Canada 3-1 in the preliminary-round when Mats Sundin was jet-lagged, having arrived from Toronto, Canada just the day before

AP , HELSINKI, FINLAND

Ronni Sundin, right, of Sweden hits Jozef Stumpel of Slovakia during the third period of their semifinal match at the Ice Hockey World Championship in Helsinki, on Friday. Sweden won the match 4-1 and will face Canada in the final.

PHOTO: REUTERS

For most Swedes, nothing beats playing Canada in a world hockey championship final. It's simply a dream game on Sunday.

But this Canadian team doesn't play typically Canadian-style hockey.

"They play very well defensively and when the get the puck they attack with a lot of speed," said Mats Sundin, the Toronto Maple Leafs captain. "They have quick forwards. They have a very good team."

Defenseman Mattias Norstrom, the Los Angeles Kings' captain, agreed.

"They play a different type of Canadian hockey," Norstrom said. "It's been pretty much inspired by the European teams. They're really defensively-minded. They have four guys back, one guy up.

"If we're going to beat the Canadians we got to beat them in our own end, down low, the one-on-one battles and especially in front of the net because they've been so solid defensively."

Sundin had his best game in the tournament, scoring two goals and setting up a late empty-netter by Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings, a possible NHL rookie of the year, as Sweden beat defending champion Slovakia 4-1 in Friday's semifinals.

Dany Heatley of the Atlanta Thrashers notched three goals to lead Canada over the Czech Republic 8-4 in the other semifinal.

"We want to get back on top on everything we do," said Heatley, who set a franchise record for Atlanta with 41 goals and was most valuable player of the All-Star game this season.

"They did it at the Olympics [Canada beat the US] and we want to do it here," Heatley said.

"We want to show everybody we're the best hockey country in the world. And we've got to prove it Sunday."

Sundin nearly got a hat trick as well early in the third period, skating the length of the ice with the Slovaks on the power play, then deking a defenseman before goalie Jan Lasak made a pad save.

Sweden lost to Canada 3-1 in the preliminary-round when Sundin was jet-lagged, having arrived from Toronto the day before.

"Hopefully we learned a lesson from that game," Sundin said. "We have to make some changes ... they had a lot of chances and we must play smarter. It will be a tough game."

Sweden goalie Mikael Tellqvist, who spent this season with Toronto's American Hockey League farm team, the St. Johns Maple Leafs, is looking forward to the final.

"Canada, the home of hockey ... the hockey people in Sweden longed for this and so did every player on this team," Tellqvist said. "Hopefully, we can play as well as we did in Salt Lake City and beat them again."

Sweden beat eventual Olympic champion Canada in the preliminaries 14 months ago at the Winter Games, but Tommy Salo became the big goat when the Edmonton Oilers goalie gave up a bizarre goal in a loss to hockey minnow Belarus in the quarterfinals.

After giving up five goals in the quarterfinals of this tournament when Sweden rallied from 5-1 down to edge host Finland 6-5 in one of the greatest comebacks in the 67-year history of the world championships, Salo is an unlikely starter in the final against Canada.

Peter Forsberg, the big star in the quarterfinals when he scored twice against Finland, will be looking for a better game Sunday.

"Foppa," as he's known in Sweden, led the NHL in scoring with the Colorado Avalanche this season and is a favorite for MVP honors, but he went pointless against Slovakia.

But he made several big defensive contributions, including a thunderous bodycheck against the boards on tournament top scorer Ziggy Palffy of the Los Angeles Kings, who left the game for good with four minutes left.

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